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Switching telecom provider? New supplier to handle entire move under Ofcom proposals

Written by: Paloma Kubiak
Customers switching landline, broadband and pay TV services should be able to do so with greater ease under proposals announced by the communications regulator.

Ofcom has today announced proposals to help consumers switch telecom providers via the Openreach telecoms network, KCOM in Hull, Virgin Media cable and Sky satellite, whether they have stand-alone or bundle packages.

Currently, if you want to switch one or more of your triple play services (landline, broadband and pay TV) to another provider, you have to contact your existing supply to cancel the contract. You then need to arrange the service with your new, gaining supplier.

However, Ofcom said this ‘cease and re-provide’ arrangement comes with difficulties, such as customers losing service, paying double for an overlapping service – an average of £22 – and difficulties contacting their current provider to cancel the subscription.

With an estimated 884,000 switches made between the networks every year and with no current formal switching process to help people, Ofcom has outlined two options to make switching easier and more reliable.

  • ‘One-stop’ process for switching: This is Ofcom’s preferred option which would place responsibility for the coordination of the switch entirely in the hands of a customer’s new provider. The customer would only need to deal with the company they were switching to.
  • Improved cancellation channels: This would see an enhanced version of the existing arrangements for switching between networks. Customers would still have to contact their existing provider to cancel their service or services, but could do so without having to speak to them on the phone. Ofcom would require providers to offer a wider range of cancellation channels, for example, via webchat or an online account.

It added that both options would reduce loss of service and double paying. This is because the consumer’s new provider would be required to coordinate with the losing provider to ensure their old service is not switched off until the new service is active.

Further, any notice period owed to the old provider would come to an end on the date of the switch to avoid contracts overlapping and to prevent the consumer from paying for two services at once.

Lindsey Fussell, Ofcom’s consumer group director, said: “People should be able to switch easily to take advantage of the best deals in the market.

“We’ve already improved the switching experience for millions of landline and broadband customers. Now we’re consulting on making it easier and more reliable for telecoms and TV customers to switch between different networks – including when their services are bundled on to one bill.”

The consultation on these proposals will run until 21 October and Ofcom is due to take a final decision by summer 2017.

Separately, Ofcom today also launched a consultation on the proposed introduction of new rules to reduce the number of mobile customers who are charged after the date they switch their service to a new provider – saving them at least £13m per year.

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